Saturday, September 1, 2007

New Job

In the last post, I intended to detail the way that my wife and I are going through our budgeting process in order to get a handle on our expenditures and to figure out how to speed up the reduction of our debt.

About as soon as I hit the "publish" button on that post, fully intending to sit down and talk through our expenses, I found myself in the middle of a process of getting a new job.

The current grind

I wasn't looking for a new job. My current employment situation was not really exciting, but the pay was pretty good and required very few weeks over 40 hours. It was a bit technologically backward, but it was an environment that provided a motivated individual such as myself the opportunity to be the person bringing positive change. It was a job where I could be the go-to guy, and as such, the job was okay.

Now, I'm one of those individuals who holds that when you are young, there is little reason to find the job that you love. I would certainly advise away from jobs that you hate, but I think that having a job that you don't mind is fine.

I'm at that point in my thinking because I'm at a place where I am young enough to do things that are probably risky or stupid to do when you are older and/or have a family to support. I'm hoping it doesn't sound greedy, but right now, I'm making it my job to advance as quickly as possible in my career, and especially my earnings. It's all part of a general plan to grow as quickly as I can when I have the fewest strings attached, and then ratchet that down as we have a family and need more stability.

And the Fresh Grind

Anyway, I got a call from a recruiter a bit back. Usually, I just say no thanks and move on, but for whatever the reason, I was in the mood to listen. About a hundred rounds of phone-tag, two technical exams, a phone interview, and meeting with about five groups for separate interviews, I'm hired on.

So that's my excuse for not completing the budget post. Lame perhaps, but true. It'll be my next post, though.

A Career Question - on one hand.

I'm left with the question of whether or not my strategy of career-building is a good one.

On one hand, I get a little worried. So far in the last four years, I've had four jobs, and eventually that will begin to look a little suspicious on my resume. I've already had questions on why I've jumped around so much.

My concern is that eventually this will come back to bite me. I worry that at some point I could make a move to a company that I truly don't like, and at that point, I'll have "been around the block" enough that others won't be interested. It's eerily like a relationship in that respect - and I'm contemplating the relative benefit of sleeping around.

So far, though, this hasn't seemed to hurt me, and I kind of figure that I'll know that I've reached the point where I need to settle down for a while when other employers stop showing interest.

And on the other

On the other hand, while at some point I fully intend to "settle down" at a place and work there for a number of years, I've not yet done that. I've never shut myself off from listening about other employment opportunities, and so far that seems to have paid off.

For instance, in the last four years, I've increased my annual compensation by about 270% by switching employers. In the technical field, I think that this is pretty good. It's enabled me to live credit-card free, not finance the wedding or honeymoon, and to eventually purchase our house more easily.

It still seems like the best way to increase your salary the most is by leaving your employer. For whatever the reason, you are almost always valued much more by other organizations than the one you contribute to every day. To me, that seems really messed up, but in practice it appears to be true. I also think that this is one of the largest "broken" aspects of modern employment, because it's an extremely efficient way to lose your top talent and the tremendous amount of money and resources a company sinks into an individual.

Right now, I'm able to justify this train of thought by considering the parallel with the investment strategies for retirement accounts. Right now, I'm young enough to be able to whether the turbulence a bit more than when I'm older (or at least I think so), and just like when saving for retirement, I should be looking for more growth, even at the cost of increased risk. As I age, I need to be moving my career investment from "growth" to "stability", and reduce the risk accordingly.

Not sure of the answer

I'm not sure if the analogy proves true, but it's the model I'm currently operating on, even though I'm not sure if I'm being smart or stupid right now. Anyone who has advice will be welcome to contribute it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Where I'm at

For a while now, I've thought of myself as a *pretty* responsible person when it comes to finances. Not perfect, but doing ok.

Late night money guy

Back in school, I would drive who was then my girlfriend back to her dorm for the night and I just happened to be driving back late enough to catch this one money guy I'd never heard of, but who was talking about "Financial Peace". Boring financial talk or crazy Art Bell? Fine, I'll take the late-night money guy.

I've since discovered I'm hardly the first person to discover the talents and teachings of Dave Ramsey. I've also learned I'm not the only person to benefit from his radical idea of cutting up your credit cards, either.

Cut up the plastic

So, ok. Step one complete. No credit card debt.

I'm quite fortunate that I was in the car bored out of my skull that night to the point that I considered listening to an AM Financial Talk show, as it got the message to me at a fairly early age, right at the point that the average person begins to commit in earnest to the lifelong "Credit card-as-lifestyle" process.

It's funny. I'm guessing that it happens to everyone - where a forgettable or minor occurrence ends up being a major course-of-life altering thing in retrospect. Listening to those shows while driving home late at night joins a very elite list of those types of events.

Anyway, after a while, I decided to make a plan to pay off the credit cards and promptly cut them up. I stayed "credit-clean" for years after that.

Moving up

Fast forward through those years, and I've graduated from college, cycled through a few jobs, got married, and the like. Things were good. I was doing fairly well financially and career-wise, as was my wife, and we were easily able to put money in the bank for an emergency fund.

Now, most recently, we made the decision that we were tiring of life in a rental unit (and more accurately for me, tired of paying someone else's mortgage, and we bought a house.

Moving out

Suddenly, we're finding ourselves in a situation where it's getting harder and harder to do the right things, and for the first time in a while, we need to make some real priorities in what we do with our cash. Before, we would simply try to life frugally, and if something happened that caused us to spend more than is typical, well, we contribute less to the savings account.

That's not a possibility for us any more, as the house took over the money that we were socking away in savings every month. We're not living paycheck-to-paycheck per se, as we're contributing to retirement accounts and never carry credit card debt, but since we're treating these as mandatory, the net effect is probably only a couple dollars at the end of the month in terms of wiggle-room.

The dirty deed

So what does that mean? We're going to need to sit down and redo our budget, and then we're going to have to cut back. Next post I'll write about that process and what we find.